|Liefländer, AK: Effektivität von Umweltbildung zum Thema Wasser — Empirische Studie zu Naturverbundenheit, Umwelteinstellungen und Umweltwissen, (2013)|
Strengthening the environmental awareness within the world population is essential for facing today’s environmental threats. To solve current environmental problems and prevent future ones, environmental education should, among other things, promote the motivation, attitudes and knowledge necessary to ensure the protection and preservation of nature (IUCN, UNEP & WWF, 1991; Potter, 2009). Connectedness to nature constitutes a great motivation for protecting nature and is encouraged through direct, affective nature experiences (e.g. Kaiser, Roczen & Bogner, 2008; Davis, Green & Reed, 2009). Connectedness, just like environmental attitudes, can change during the course of a person’s life. This can affect the efficiency of environmental education with respect to different age groups (Bruni & Schultz, 2010; Ernst & Theimer, 2011). Frick and colleagues (2004) established three distinct cognitive knowledge dimensions which are necessary for sustainable action: system, action-related and effectiveness knowledge, dimensions which should be deliberately integrated into educational campaigns. Up to now, there have been no detailed investigations of how pupils of various ages differ with regard to their connectedness to nature values or environmental attitudes. Also unclear is whether children and preadolescents are influenced differently by environmental education focusing on the previously mentioned aspects or if an achieved effect persists long after an educational project has ended. Systematically integrating the three environmental knowledge dimensions into one project is a challenging step that would allow any increase in a particular environmental knowledge dimension as well as any convergence of the dimensions to be determined. The present study addresses the current state of connectedness to nature and environmental attitudes of pupils 9 to 13 years in age. Subsequently, the influence of a comprehensive four-day environmental education programme on connectedness to nature, environmental attitudes and gain in environmental knowledge is examined. The topic of the project at a school field centre was “Water in Life – Life in Water” and about 200 German pupils participated. The participants’ connectedness to nature was measured with the INS scale (Inclusion of Nature in Self; Schultz, 2002). The environmental attitudes were determined based on the 2- MEV model and its subscales preservation and utilisation (Two Major Environmental Values; e.g. Bogner & Wiseman, 2006) as well as on the previously mentioned environmental knowledge dimensions with three scales newly developed for this study. The instruments were embedded into a questionnaire which was employed as a pre-test, post-test and retention test. An external control group only completed the questionnaires and did not take part in the programme. The results indicate that the 9 to 10-year-old pupils (fourth grade) show a stronger connectedness to nature and better environmental attitudes than the 11 to 13-year-olds (sixth grade). The influence of the environmental education project on connectedness to nature and environmental attitudes is stronger for the younger pupils than for the older ones. Both age groups show a stronger connectedness directly after the pupils’ participation, however, only the connectedness of the younger participants persists up to four weeks after the project. A similar picture is found for the environmental attitudes: Both the preservation and utilisation attitudes of the younger pupils improve through the pupils’ participation in the project, yet only preservation remains improved four weeks after the programme’s end. In comparison, the preservation attitude of the older pupils shows only a short-term improvement and the utilisation attitude is not influenced. The onset of puberty for the older pupils may be a reason for the lower connectedness to nature and the less favourable environmental attitudes. Because of their age, the older pupils probably feel more independent and emotionally distant from others (Parra & Oliva, 2009; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986) and perhaps also from nature. The new environmental knowledge scales were found to be reliable and homogeneous. Both the pupils’ knowledge levels and the knowledge convergence increase through the pupils’ programme participation and largely persist over a time span of four weeks after the project. Effectiveness knowledge shows the least knowledge level increase, which can be explained by the hierarchical dependence of the environmental knowledge dimensions. Summarising the results, the four-day environmental education project was successful with regard to strengthening the pupils’ connectedness to nature, improving environmental attitudes and increasing environmental knowledge, particularly for the 9 to 10-year-old pupils. Finally, the implications of the findings for education research and the consequences for environmental education are discussed.